ORANGE, Calif., April 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- For decades, the incidence of oral cancer has remained nearly constant, partly because it can be difficult to detect. However, during April, Oral Cancer Awareness Month, Western Dental Services, Inc., is joining the national effort to support early recognition of oral cancer symptoms.
"It can be hard for a patient to know the difference between something to worry about and not," says Dr. Louis Amendola, D.D.S., Chief Dental Director of the 250 company-managed offices throughout California, Arizona and Nevada. "Early stages of oral cancer can develop without causing noticeable symptoms," he said.
As gatekeepers to oral health, dentists offer the most important line of defense against the disease, says Samuel H. Gruenbaum, President and Chief Executive Officer of the California-based dental HMO.
"Western Dental routinely conducts oral cancer screenings with checkups to spot suspicious or precancerous conditions before they can develop into more serious stages of the disease," Gruenbaum said.
Heavy exposure to tobacco, alcohol and sunlight are linked to oral cancer, which becomes more likely to strike in middle age. Among nonsmokers under age 50, however, the human papilloma virus (HPV) is becoming one of the leading causes of oral cancer.
Consult a dentist if you notice any symptoms of lip and oral cancer, including:
A sore on the lip or in the mouth that doesn't heal within 14 days.
Unspecified or sudden numbness in the oral or facial region.
A lump or thickening on the lips, gums, or in the neck or mouth.
White or red patches or a mix of both on the gums, tongue, tonsils or lining of the mouth.
Unusual bleeding, pain or numbness in the mouth or lips.
Trouble chewing, swallowing or moving the tongue or jaw.
A feeling that something is caught in the throat.
Persistent ear ache.
A hoarseness or change in voice.
Loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit well.
Swelling of the jaw.
"If your dentist notices an abnormality, he or she may refer you to the appropriate doctors for further tests," said Dr. Amendola. "If you have any oral health concerns, see a dentist, sooner, rather than later," he said. "It could save your life."
Western Dental Services, Inc., is the largest staff-model dental HMO and clinical provider of dental services in California. With more than 4,400 employees and over 250 company-managed dental offices throughout California, Arizona and Nevada, Western Dental is the leader in family and specialty dental care operations at convenient neighborhood locations. The company's strict quality oversight, affordably priced treatments, group and individual dental benefit plans, as well as evening and weekend office hours, help keep the smiles of nearly three-quarters of a million patients healthy and bright every year.